According to data recently published by the European Commission, approximately 1 846 600 students have benefitted from a study period abroad under the Erasmus programme up until and including the 2007-2008 academic year. With all likelihood the number will exceed 2 million by the end of 2009.
Ever since its inception 21 years ago, Erasmus has been a frontrunner in the race to modernise higher education in Europe. Since its launch in 1987 the programme has seen a steady growth in student participation, with a 2.1 percent growth rate recorded for 2007-2008. All in all, Germany continues to be the largest sender (with 23 553 Erasmus students) while Spain remains the most popular destination (receiving 27 831 students). Nevertheless, the growth rate appears to be slowing down, and negative growth has been reported in a number of countries, such as Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Romania, Norway, Finland, Malta, and Liechtenstein. Counting all types of student exchange (including the recently added student placements in enterprises) Erasmus mobility has expanded by more than 5 percent for 2007-2008. However, according to estimates the target of 3 million Erasmus students by 2012 is unlikely to be reached unless the annual increase comes up to 8 percent.
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